Tokyo - Hadleigh Parkes' circuitous route to a shoo-in as Wales' inside centre passed via a season in South Africa, a season the Kiwi said was spent on safari and sunbathing.

The 32-year-old made only seven appearances for the Kings in Super Rugby, a broken arm hampering his season down in Port Elizabeth.

"I had a hell of a tan, I can tell you!" Parkes joked ahead of Sunday's World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

Time away from rugby meant exploring the country's famed southeastern coastal Garden Route, travelling inland for safari and accepting what he called the amazing hospitality of the locals.

Parkes briefly returned from South Africa to his native New Zealand before joining up with former Auckland coach Wayne Pivac at Llanelli-based Scarlets in 2014.

Parkes was signed with little fanfare to cover the exit to Clermont of current Wales team-mate Jonathan Davies.

And three years of residency in west Wales saw Parkes qualify for his adopted country, the New Zealander ironically making his international debut against the Springboks in December 2017, at the age of 30.

"It was an amazing occasion to be at Principality Stadium and to get the win as well was pretty cool," said Parkes, who quickly formed an effective partnership with Davies when he returned from France, for both the Scarlets and Wales.

"It was just to get out there and do the small things right."

Parkes is now a go-to team member for Wales coach Warren Gatland.

He has proven himself to be a no-nonsense defender who rarely misses a tackle. Indeed his tackle on Ireland flyer Jacob Stockdale in the final game was the turning point of last season's Six Nations, enabling Wales to go on to claim the Grand Slam.

Parkes is also a hard-running attacker with a knack of scoring vital tries, perhaps not the most fleet-footed, but with a safe pair of hands and an eye for a gap.

He sustained a bone fracture in his hand in Wales' opening World Cup game against Georgia, but that hasn't stopped the Hunterville-born native from playing.

"I'm very excited about this week," he admitted, saying the nail-biting 20-19 victory over France in the quarter-final had been accepted as best of a bad bunch.

"Last week, we were all a little bit disappointed with how we played, but we got the job done and managed to get the win.

"Now we're in the semi-final of the World Cup. They come around every four years and the last time we were in a semi-final was in 2011."

Parkes said he watched that match with mates at an Auckland pub, admitting he still has to pinch himself.

"It has been superb. With how it came about five years ago I would certainly never have dreamed that this would be on the cards but it has worked out pretty well," he said.

Wales faced a real challenge against two-time World Cup winners South Africa in Yokohama on Sunday, said Parkes, ranking them as "tough opposition, always up there in top three in world."

"They're very big boys, a very powerful team and they've got a lot of flair, especially with (Cheslin) Kolbe out wide.

"They're big men. You line up next to them and you know you're in for a tough challenge. They enjoy the physicality of the game, but it's also part of our game."